When I choose to review Wake Owl’s first full length album, I had no idea what I was in for. The Private World of Paradise is like nothing else Wake Owl has put out before.
Wake Owl’s only previews into their newest album were two tracks: “Candy” first and then “Letters” about a month later. These two songs, when listened in conjunction with Wake Owl’s Wild Country EP, would give the impression of that they are an indie alt/folk hybrid, with a sound similar to The Middle East and possibly Bon Iver. Dead wrong. After listening to the first three or so tracks in the background of some homework, I had to double check that I was still listening to Wake Owl. I was, and I loved it. After going through the whole album, I had a completely different idea about what Wake Owl’s sound was. Turns out, they are much more in line with the diverse tastes of their label, Vagrant, which features artists like Bombay Bicycle Club, Blitzen Trappen, Rouge Wave, and most notably, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
The variety of The Private World of Paradise is what really caught my attention as it was so unique. I feel like anybody that is even remotely into indie music can find something that appeals to them on this album. If you feel like soft rock, then “Letters” is the track to check out: with its percussion and acoustic guitar, this song will appeal to those that e
njoy the slower songs by Dr. Dog. If you’re looking for something a little more energetic, then “Candy” is for you. This one is more like a Pretty Lights / Rouge Wave mash-up, and not unlike the unusual but undeniably good combination of Marvin Gaye and Justin Timberlake, it combines two flavors perfectly. For those partial to acoustic folk (like myself), “Oh Baby” and “Madness of Others” will satisfy the craving that can really only be filled by artists like Dawes and Blitzen Trappen. Did someone say more synth? If so, “Untitled” is heavy on the synth sounds. Though I don’t take the synthesizer as a serious instrument, the mixing on “Untitled” is top notch and beyond validates its use. Between these and the other tracks of The Private World of Paradise, everyone is sure to find something they like.
The diversity of The Private World of Paradise is what made this freshman album work so well. That said, the variety showcased in this album is a great display of range, but a terrible example of Wake Owl’s depth. By making songs that appeal to listeners of so many types, they spread themselves thin which compromises the following that they had built with the Wild Country EP. Focus and direction can be so easy for a new band to lose, but perhaps their lack of focus will allow them to attract listeners of all types. For new artists like Wake Owl, the more listeners, the better.
Written by Tom Johnson